Barren River Lake - Cycling

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About

Summary

Located smack-dab in the middle of Kentucky’s Caves region, some of the most scenic country the state has to offer, Barren River Lake is only a 30-minute drive from Mammoth Cave National Park.

Written by

Shaine Smith

Distance

2.5 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

120.1 miles

Difficulty

2 of 5 diamonds

The surface is paved and it’s mostly flat, with just a few hills here and there, and a short, steep section at the end to get the heart going.

Time To Complete

1 hours

A single loop takes about 20 minutes.

Seasonality

All Seasons

The loop is open year round. May be busy in the summer, with other cyclists and hikers. Also, watch for golf carts, there are a few sections where they cross the trail. Fall is spectacular, with cooler days and kaleidoscopic foliage.

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

Fees Permits

No

Review

Intro

The area was named "the Barrens," after its large, open grasslands. Local Native American tribes repeatedly burned the forests to stampede and kill big game in the area. This created vast savannahs that drew in other animals feeding on the lush grass. Early settlers thought the treeless land was easy to cultivate and found some of the most fertile soil they had ever encountered. A healthy farming community soon sprung up. Seeing the need for flood control for the area, the Army Corps of Engineers completed a 146-foot high dam on the Barren River in 1964. The resulting artificial lake is over 10,000 acres with a whopping 141 miles of wondrous shoreline. In 1965, the Corps bought up the land surrounding the lake and the Barren River Lake State Resort Park was born.

The trail meanders around the park in a loop, giving visitors a good tour of everything the park has to offer.

What Makes It Great

The Barren River Lake Trail packs in a massive amount of scenery in its short mileage. While undulating around the loop, riders are treated to wonderful views of the 18-hole golf course, shady areas with towering hardwood trees, meadows of wildflowers, bucolic streams, and romantic little bridges. Be sure to pause at the stables and watch the horses frolic, maybe even take a ride.There are a few trailheads around the loop, where a couple hiking-only offshoots exist, a nice way to break up the ride.

Fans of our feathered friends should keep a keen eye out. Several neotropical migrants like flycatchers, thrushes and warblers are seen often in the fall and spring, and waterbirds frequent the park from late summer through spring. The stars of the park are bald eagles, commonly seen from October through March. Sandhill Cranes are also prevalent in November through February.

When finished for the day, head over to the Driftwood Lodge for some of Kentucky’s finest cuisine. They used locally sourced ingredients in season and are famous for their burgers and buffet. Lodging options abound. From swank rooms in the full-service, 51-room Louie B. Nunn Lodge, with its on-site gym and outdoor pool, to the park’s 99-site campground, for those who want to be a little closer to nature. There are also 22 two-bedroom cottages and villas overlooking the lake.

Who is Going to Love It

The park itself really does have something for the whole family. The sheer number of recreational activities to choose from is staggering. In addition to the cycling trail, there are hiking trails, the golf course, tennis courts, guided horseback riding, camping, and even geocaching.

If watersports are on the docket, the lake offers swimming, paddling, waterskiing, and some of the best bass fishing in the area. The Kentucky record holder, a 20-pound Hybrid Striped Bass was pulled from here. The marina has varied selection of rental boats too, from large pontoon boats for full-day cruising to single-person kayaks and canoes for a relaxing day on the water. Sound too dull? Jetskis are also available.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

The resort is located 44 miles southeast of Bowling Green. Take I-65 to the Cumberland Parkway east, to US 31E south.

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Location

Barren River Lake State Park

36.865432, -86.069141

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